Punjab and Rajasthan have warned the centre of fast-depleting coronavirus vaccine stocks, even as a deadly second wave of infections – over 1.45 lakh were reported in 24 hours this morning – threatens to overrun the country and its already-creaking medical infrastructure.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said his state had only five days of vaccines left – three if it reached its target of two lakh shots per day – and called on the centre to rush the next batch.
His counterpart from Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, warned of an even worse condition, with vaccine stocks set to run out in 48 hours or less, and urged the centre to send 30 lakh doses immediately.
“Punjab has only five days of supply (5.7 lakh vaccine doses) left at the current levels of vaccination – between 85,000 and 90,000 people per day. Hoping the centre will send fresh batches of vaccine supply soon. If the state is able to meet its current target – around two lakh shots per day – then existing supplies last only three days,” Mr Singh said in a statement issued this morning.
“We have already planned to increase pace of vaccination to five lakh beneficiaries per day… The present stock of vaccines in Rajasthan will finish in the next two days. Therefore, it is requested that at least another 30 lakh doses be provided to us immediately…” Mr Gehlot wrote.
In his statement the Punjab Chief Minister also said vaccination rates in his state – among the lowest in the country according to the centre – were the result of “massive anger against the Government of India on the issue of farm laws“.
Both Mr Singh and Mr Gehlot today also participated in a video meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to discuss this issue and overall Covid management in states where the party is in power.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also flagged the vaccine shortage issue today, saying the national capital had between seven and 10 days of stock left. The city, which reported over 8,500 new cases on Friday – its biggest single-day spike this year – will impose certain restrictions shortly, Mr Kejriwal said.
And earlier this week Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta told news agency ANI there were only two days of supply left in his state, with around 10 lakh doses urgently needed.
The issue of shortage of vaccine stocks has been headlined by Maharashtra – the worst-affected state – where over two dozen centres have been shut in Mumbai and more than 100 in Pune.
The centre, however, has stressed that vaccines are not in short supply.
“All states are being provided with an adequate number of doses,” Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in Bengal to campaign for the BJP during Assembly elections, said today.
On Thursday Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan slammed the “hue and cry (about vaccine distribution) by certain states… to hide their own incompetence” – to rush more vaccine stocks.
States’ concern over vaccine supplies come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called this week for a “Tika Utsav“, or vaccine festival, to inoculate as many people as possible against the coronavirus.
That call was flagged by Ashok Gehlot in his letter today; he said: “… you have proposed a “Tika Utsav“… Rajasthan will aim for maximum vaccination” and underlined the need for more stocks.
On Tuesday Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute – the Pune-based firm that is the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, and which supplies around 65 million doses of Covishield per month – told NDTV this week that existing production capacities were “very stressed”.
He said SII needed Rs 3,000 crore and three months to scale up production, inviting a sharp retort from the centre today; AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria said it was not “rocket science” to expect rampant demand for the vaccine, and that SII should have been better prepared.
With input from ANI